To Dare is Too Dear

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New season, same story.

Audere Est Facere. Three immortal words that have defined Tottenham Hotspur throughout its illustrious one hundred and forty year existence. To dare is to do, goes the translation, a motto that to this day remains as synonymous with the club as their white shirt and affinity for trophies in years ending in one. But what does it mean, exactly, and is the club living up to its lofty premise?

For nearly a century, it meant, titles, trophies, glory. It meant doing everything in your power to be the very best, in every position, in every game. In the enduring words of one legendary manager, it meant:

It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.

Bill Nicholson

So has the club been adhering to this philosophy in recent years? Setting their on field standards so uncompromisingly high, that even their failures emit an echo of glory? Or is the club losing sight of that philosophy: of truly daring to achieve?

Weeks into the summer transfer window, things have taken a familiar turn for Tottenham Hotspur.

The North London club finds itself mired once more in its annual cycle of struggling to get rid of deadwood, of failing to solve long standing issues, and of having to watch rivals — already far ahead of them in their development — strengthen in ways that Spurs can only dream of. While Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Joe Hart were signed early in the window, and Matt Doherty has arrived from Wolves, it’s hardly the show of ambition that fans have been awaiting for years now.

Many will view this with a sense of deja vu; what is unfolding now has formed the blueprint for every window under Pochettino and many of his predecessors. Weeks pass by, targets come and go, and Tottenham’s notoriously risk-averse chairman quietly bides his time to wait and see which bargains might became available at the end of the summer. Despite years of standing still, proactively attacking the window is still apparently not an option. Forget about affording players a proper pre-season, the chance to get up to speed with the manager’s tactics, to bed-in with teammates; saving money on wages and transfer fees is far more important. This, of course — according to Daniel Levy — is the only viable strategy for a club bereft of the riches of other clubs and forced to make do with such limited resources.

A closer look at the underlying financials from the past few years, however, reveals an entirely different story.

The club is coming off a year in which they posted double the profits of the next highest challenger (Liverpool), and one in which many teams posted a loss. Brighton, for example, a club that spent the bulk of last season fighting relegation, and was playing in the Championship just three years ago, posted a loss of £22million. Yet even they appear less burdened, less deterred, and more ambitious to press ahead with their business, signing the players they need, and showing commendable endeavor for a club of their size.

To put these numbers into further context, Tottenham’s figures in the 18/19 season weren’t an anomaly. The club is responsible now for posting three of the top five profits in the history of the Premier League.

The club has not reported an operating loss since 2012. #THFC’s wealth is not a new development. Indeed, many will note that even before the Sky and Premier League era, the club have always been among England’s richest clubs — and certainly among its highest spenders. The advent of TV and Champions League money has only strengthened that position, so the excuse of not having the money to be able to keep pace with their rivals is tenuous at best.

In terms of profitability, Tottenham are certainly mixing it amongst the elite.

EBITDA (Earnings before Tax, Depreciation & Amortization), widely considered a proxy for cash operating profit, as it strips out players sales and exceptional item increased from £159m to £168m.

#THFC EBITDA of £168m is the second highest in the Premier League, only behind the cash machine known as #MUFC £186m, but but a fair way ahead of #LFC £124m and #MCFC £118m. In stark contrast, #EFC EBITDA was negative £15m.

Swiss Ramble

Indeed, by almost every conceivable metric, Spurs are outperforming their peers. The incredible rise in off-field performance has rocketed them above their rivals to become the highest revenue-generating club in London, and propelled them up Deloitte’s Football Money League, above the likes of Dortmund and Juventus.

Deloitte Football Money League 2020

The club are successful by any measure. Except of course on the pitch.

While Levy and the club’s hierarchy deserve to be commended for growing the club commercially, they also shouldn’t be surprised by the increased scrutiny at seeing none of that success translated on the field. Along with the club’s astronomical growth off the pitch, many are left wondering why we have not seen the commensurate increase in football spend — the purported reason for building the stadium in the first place. The limiting factor, as it has been for too long now, is the owner’s level of ambition. It’s not a question of exposure, or risk to the club’s survival, but rather the unwillingness from an investment company to release funds not explicitly earmarked for transfers. Money that isn’t burning a hole in their pockets, or deemed “disposable,” which for Tottenham’s owners appears to encompass an entirely different definition than for any other club in world football.

In 2020, more than a year on from that fateful night in Madrid, and with the club still picking up the ashes of the Pochettino reign, the club’s ownership, once again, are pleading poverty. Due to Covid, goes the prevailing narrative, high-end transfer plans have had to be shelved, and yet another window of scraping by is an unfortunate inevitability.

Yet this ignores the fact that every club — not just in N17, and not just in England — has been hit by the pandemic. And that many who exist without the wealth and finances that Tottenham enjoy have been hit much harder. Only one, perhaps unsurprisingly, has tried openly to use it as an excuse not to do business. As justification to not go through with the long overdue rebuild and deliver the squad refreshment that has been sorely needed for years. It’s worth remembering that a few months prior, at the onset of the pandemic, Tottenham also made headlines around the world for becoming one of the first clubs to tap into the government’s furlough scheme and slash the pay of 550 non-football staff. See: ENIC’s Covid-19 response.

Somehow, one of Europe’s richest clubs is making a habit of pleading poverty at crucial junctures, watching on as clubs who operate on a fraction of their budget make do and withstand the effects of external forces without having to resort to such extreme austerity or sacrifice nearly as much. It also fits a well trodden and curious path, one that’s growing as tiresome as it is predictable. Whenever there’s an opportunity to push on, strengthen, or even merely to consolidate, the club is invariably asleep at the wheel, lagging behind while finding all manner of reasons to decline the invitation. Whenever there’s the possibility to reduce spending, however, to cut costs and slash expenditure, Levy and Tottenham are always at the head of the queue.

The limiting factor, as it has been for too long now, is the owners level of ambition.

This summer, Levy was once more quick to dampen expectations, decrying the mere discussion of transfers and intimating that no one would be doing any business, that clubs would have no money to spend.

The rest of Europe didn’t seem to get the memo.

In Italy, Napoli splashed £70million on Lille’s Victor Osimhen, while Juventus spent almost the same amount on Arthur from Barcelona. In England, Manchester City signed Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake, the latter in a £40million deal from Bournemouth. Southampton have signed Kyle Walker-Peters and Mohammed Salisu, and entered talks to sign highly rated American midfielder Westin McKennie, while Brighton have signed Adam Lallana and Joel Veltman. Crystal Palace — another club operating on a fraction of Tottenham’s budget — have sanctioned a £20million fee for highly rated QPR attacker Eberechi Eze, a young talent Spurs had watched closely. Even Leeds United — a club that’s been exiled from England’s top flight for nearly two decades, starved of the vast, lucrative riches others have been able to reap — are splashing the cash, spending almost £80million to secure the likes of Robin Koch, Helder Costa and Spanish international striker Rodrigo. The supposed cessation in transfers that Levy predicted has not materialized. Business is very much being done.

More pertinently, Tottenham’s biggest rivals are also getting their business done. While the coronavirus appears to have derailed one part of London, the rest of the capitol is having no such issues. Willian — a player reportedly wanted by Mourinho — has already signed for Arsenal, and the club have now secured a £30million fee for Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes. The Brazilian will partner young French defender William Saliba, another player heavily scouted by Tottenham, but ultimately deemed too expensive. Somewhat alarmingly, even Arsenal, a club under constant turmoil post Arsene Wenger, with owners roundly criticized, appear to be displaying more foresight than Tottenham have in some time.

In West London, Chelsea are making a mockery of the pandemic, arming manager Frank Lampard with an array of Europe’s brightest talents. The club have moved early to sign Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner — two players again linked extensively with Tottenham over the past few years. Multiple reports suggest that a deal for highly prized attacking midfielder Kai Havertz is imminent, while deals for Thiago Silva, Malang Sarr and Ben Chilwell have also been completed. Every one of these signings likely walks into Tottenham’s first XI.

One of Europe’s richest clubs is making a habit of pleading poverty at crucial junctures, watching on as clubs who operate on a fraction of their budget make do and withstand the effects of external forces without having to resort to extreme austerity or sacrifice nearly as much.

Chelsea signing Chilwell is especially galling for Tottenham fans, who have been desperate for a new left back for several seasons now. After the decline of Rose and forced promotion of his understudy, Ben Davies, fans will be forgiven for wondering what exactly is going on with regards to the team’s recruitment. Full-backs in general have long been a problem area for Tottenham, where ever since selling walker to Manchester City in 2017, their options have grown progressively worse. Seeing their rivals swoop in for Chilwell, with Marcus Alonso, Emerson Palmeiri and Cesar Azpilicueta already among their ranks, is a rather stark, damning illustration of the differences in ambition between the two clubs.

Alas, Tottenham are here again, staring at a familiar crossroads. Once more watching from afar as rivals strengthen with the players they need. Once more content in doing the absolute bare minimum required; fixing some problems from years ago, but leaving others untouched. Again waiting until the last possible moment to solve long-standing issues — many of which have gone unfixed for multiple seasons now — utterly disinterested in displaying any signs of sustained intent to either their own fans or rival clubs.

Levy talks constantly of Spurs being “different” to other clubs. Of having a “unique” DNA.

Yet it’s difficult to view these statements as anything other than a bold attempt by Levy to gaslight the club’s long-suffering fans.

This is the same individual who, after overseeing a squad that regressed and imploded on the field after years of stagnation, a decline which resulted in the ruthless firing of the club’s most successful manager of the modern era, maintained that:

“There is no correlation between spending money and success.”

Daniel Levy

While Pochettino spoke constantly of “thinking like a big club,” and of needing to “furnish” the nice house the club had built, Mourinho appears to be towing the party line to a far greater extent.

Tottenham will never be kings of the transfer market.

We are a different club. We have to do things in a different way.

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho seems to have already accepted the fact that Tottenham will never spend like a top club, and will never solve issues in one transfer window, like Liverpool did in 2018. But why is this the case? Why the constant dampening of expectations? The need to act and operate in a different way from every other club in world football — including those whose wealth is dwarfed by the North London club? Why the perennial subservience to rivals?

Aside from the fact that the underlying financials certainly don’t justify this philosophy, it’s also diametrically opposed to the club’s traditions; the literal antithesis of “To Dare is To Do.”

It is perhaps one of football’s enduring mysteries that one of England’s richest clubs is perpetually among its lowest spenders. Yet that is the unmistakable reality of the modern day Tottenham Hotspur. A recent list of Premier League net transfer spend for the past five years puts this into perspective:

Net transfer spend across past 5 years

Multiple world record profits, record revenue growth, cash operating profit beyond any other club bar Manchester United…but a net transfer spend a hundred million Euros lower than Brighton and Watford’s? It’s quite the paradox.

The figures showcase the upshot of signing Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s over Sadio Mane’s, of issuing a self-imposed transfer ban for an entire calendar year, of adhering religiously to a one-in-one-out philosophy, and of repeatedly failing to back the club’s various managerial appointments.

Player amortization, the annual charge to expense transfer fees across the length of a player’s contract, is again surprisingly low for a club of Tottenham’s means, well below the likes of Southampton and West Ham, in addition to all of their biggest competitors.

Finance analyst Kieran Maguire provides further illustration of Tottenham’s spend in comparison to the rest of the league.

Credit: Kieran Maguire

Player signings as a percent of revenue is a fairly simple measure, and one for which you’d expect Tottenham — the 8th richest club in the world according to Deloitte’s Money League — to be in line with the biggest clubs in the land. Once again, however, they’re nowhere near. Their paltry 5% ratio is lower than any other club in the country — an almost farcical visual indication of the sheer extent of the club’s footballing reluctance and inhibition.

As has been the case for a long while now, things are not adding up. Some will point to the stadium as the reason for the lack of spend, yet Levy himself stated that the stadium would have no impact on Tottenham’s transfer spend.

“The stadium won’t directly impact on the transfer policy. There is a certain amount earmarked for transfers…”

Daniel Levy

He also went on to explain that:

Transfers were complicated with several variables so it was not possible to work out in advance how much you could spend in a given window

Daniel Levy

It’s a statement that raises another confounding issue which frequently comes up when discussing Tottenham’s business: Why are transfers habitually so much harder and difficult to execute — both in and out — for Tottenham than any other club on the planet? Clubs richer and more successful get business done more efficiently, and even clubs poorer and lower on the totem pole also act in a far more effective manner. Whether it’s Grealish from the Championship, Fernandes from Portugal, or Dybala from Italy, there’s always something to scupper the deal. Again, the excuses don’t quite add up. After twenty years of the same, however, it’s becoming incontrovertible that the underlying, prevailing issues lie with the individuals behind the discussions.

The stadium spend — itself inflated by poor management and cost control — is an entirely separate financial transaction, amortized and mortgaged into a package that should be entirely independent of other areas of the club’s operations. Even if this wasn’t the case, the loan won’t be fully paid for decades, so standing still and waiting until it’s eventual payoff isn’t exactly a sound strategy.

We covered the team’s stagnation under Pochettino in A Timeline of Wasted Promise, and the repeated failed attempts to back the manager or strengthen the squad. The hope was that Mourinho would usher in the shift in culture that Pochettino had long demanded. While the club are not repeating their infamous windows of 2018, there’s also little evidence of the sort of proactive, ambitious drive required to genuinely compete with the likes of Liverpool, City and Chelsea.

Whether it’s Grealish from the Championship, Fernandes from Portugal, or Dybala from Italy, there’s always something to scupper the deal.

Transfer spend isn’t the only gauge of a club’s ambition. The amount spent on wages, specifically in relation to turnover, has long been used as a barometer. While Tottenham’s financial growth has been remarkable, again the expected growth in salaries paid to both existing and prospective talent has not materialized. The move to finally thinking like a big club, to acting as though Tottenham truly aspired to compete at the very top of the table still has some way to go.

A look at wages to revenue figures is telling.

Credit: Kieran Maguire

Different metric, same story. Tottenham’s wages to turnover ratio is an astonishingly low 39%. Relatively speaking, Tottenham pay far and away the lowest wages in the league. The league average is around 62%.

The club’s wage bill is so low, in fact, in proportion to revenue, that Tottenham could afford to pay Lionel Messi’s full salary, and still have a wages to turnover ratio lower than Arsenal’s and Chelsea’s.

It’s perhaps no real surprise that Tottenham have the lowest spend in relation to turnover of any team in the Premier League, and also the lowest wages. Taken holistically, it paints a rather damning picture of the extraordinary lack of ambition when it comes to the football team.

Credit: Kieran Maguire

In truth, it’s not hard to see why the club fails so chronically to win major silverware. It also puts into perspective the true magnitude of Pochettino’s achievement of keeping the team competitive for so long. That Tottenham were able to reach the pinnacle of the European game, in spite of the repeated failure to refresh and strengthen the squad, is nothing short of a miracle.

All of these comparatives highlight Spurs’ lack of investment in players.

Swiss Ramble

The club’s long-standing, pervasive reluctance to pay market rate on either transfer fees or wages is the single biggest hindrance to Tottenham’s success. When the club finally deem a transfer fee acceptable, they inevitably begin haggling over wages, finding another avenue to thwart any prospective deal. Wages were the primary reason that Sadio Mane never joined, why a deal for Georginio Wijnaldum broke down, and arguably why the likes of Kyle Walker and Christian Eriksen are no longer at the club.

While there have been some changes to the structure — notably a removal of the cap at early 2000’s rates — the club are clearly not paying salaries in line with their global standing. Tottenham’s wage bill is markedly less than their immediate rivals, and there is simply no plausible reason why the likes of Brighton and Southampton can extend themselves to such a higher degree than Tottenham.

One would expect the austerity necessitated by the stadium build to stretch to all corners of the football club. Surely the cuts and budgetary restrictions would spread to the executive suite?

A look at Daniel Levy’s salary shows the opposite to be true.

Levy’s renumeration increased to £7million, which included a £3million bonus for delivering a massively delayed and over budget stadium. For comparison, the Tottenham chairman earned £4million more than Ed Woodward at Manchester United, and markedly more than John Henry at Liverpool — the man who has overseen Liverpool’s rise to domestic and European glory.

Incredibly, the disclosure of Levy’s bumper earnings came mere hours after the announcement of the club’s decision to furlough staff and slash their pay, a development which left a sour taste in the mouth of football fans across the globe.

(Levy) has now trousered a cool £31m in the last 10 years, though improved Money League ranking

Swiss Ramble

Ultimately, Tottenham’s enduring dichotomy comes down to ambition; the most basic of prerequisites for a football club to improve their level. Football is always in flux, and the Premier League is no exception. Relegation threatened clubs are seeking the sanctuary of mid-table, mid-table clubs are trying to break into the elite, and the elite are doing everything in their power to win yet more silverware. Yet, only one club appears to buck that trend and actively attempt to stand still; to show little indication or desire of ever truly wanting to take that crucial next step in their evolution — of wasting every available opportunity to strengthen from a position of strength, and of failing repeatedly to gamble at the right times. In purely footballing terms, it’s almost impossible to find a less ambitious club in England — perhaps even in Europe — than Tottenham Hotspur. One more content to scrounge for scraps after others have had their fill, who lets long-standing issues fester for so long, and who dares so infrequently for statement signings.

Nicholson once said that:

Tottenham have to be the best in the land, not the second best.

Bill Nicholson

Imagine if Daniel Levy and the club’s hierarchy abided by this when targeting and signing prospective talent? Tottenham are a club with a long history of major signings, in many ways the original pioneers of the big foreign arrivals with the signings of World Cup winners Ossie and Ricky in the 1970’s. Greaves, Gazza, Waddle, etc were all signed on comparatively large fees and big wages. Even Alan Sugar in the 90’s, without any of the vast riches available to Levy and ENIC, was able to lure the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann to the club — a seismic coup not entirely dissimilar to Spurs today going out and signing Robert Lewandowski. Yet, despite the club’s history, marquee signings do not appear to interest the current ownership in the least.

Even more pressingly, business should be done based on need, not convenience. Tottenham’s need after years of standing still is inarguably greater than almost all of its rivals. Yet, once more, they’re the club operating with the least hunger, the least urgency — the least desire to steal a march on their rivals and make up for lost time.

It’s almost impossible to shake the notion that Tottenham are no longer a football club operating in the traditional sense — one for which football is the priority. We have seen the NFL, boxing, urban development, rock concerts and Skywalks all take precedence over the football team, and one wonders if this will ever change under the current ownership. Perhaps we should have paid closer attention to what was said many years ago:

Excerpt from Broken Dreams, Tom Bower

In the cool glow of hindsight, everything is going according to plan. A sports and entertainment facility, designed to reap in profit for decades to come has been built, and a shiny new addition to the real estate asset list safely ensconced within ENIC’s portfolio. The business is inarguably now a financial behemoth, regularly appearing on Forbes and Deloitte’s money lists.

For the football team, however, it’s an entirely different story. The club’s long barren run looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, and most worryingly of all, the gap between the elite appears to be further than ever. Liverpool — a club who Tottenham had finished above in nine of the previous ten seasons — and City now look light years ahead, and Chelsea’s aggressive transfer business will likely elevate them beyond reach. This leaves scrapping for fourth as the only realistic option for Champions League qualification.

It’s quite the decline from just a few short years ago, when Pochettino’s young team was rocketing towards inevitable success, standing on the cusp of domestic and European glory, and the current predicament again highlights the perils of stasis in a rapidly changing, hyper-dynamic field like top-level football.

Had what’s happening now been an isolated case, had the spending and ambition in the past few years been commensurate with the increased income generated — in line with a Champions League level team — perhaps this year’s excuses could have been forgiven. Given what’s transpired for nearly a decade now, however, the club’s stance is difficult to stomach.

The larger issue for Tottenham fans, is that it fits a familiar pattern — a long history of excuses and reasons not to spend and strengthen, and very little effort to reverse this pattern.

It’s almost impossible to shake the notion that Tottenham are no longer a football club operating in the traditional sense — one for which football is the priority.

While Doherty is a sensible signing — and a potential improvement on Aurier — at 28, he’s not a long term solution. Why, after selling Walker for £50million three years ago, are the club not in the position to go out and finally sign a top level replacement? Achraf Hakimi, prior to his move to Inter would have been a terrific option, and Ricardo Pereira, the player the club should have signed originally to replace Walker, is now Premier League proven and experienced. After such an extended and unprecedented period of frugality, accompanied by such explosive off-field growth, one has to wonder why there is such chronic reticence to flexing the club’s new-found financial muscle.

While there are several areas of the squad yet to be addressed, nowhere is the continued parsimony as acutely felt as striker. In order to procure a proper backup to Kane, an issue that has festered for six years now, it seems that more deadwood has to be first shifted from the squad — deadwood Levy will inevitably over-value to any interested parties. Kane broke onto the scene in 2014, and despite a couple of short-lived attempts, has never had the benefit of a partner to either complement his play, or ease the burden on his body. Burnley, for context, have four strikers on their books. Before this season, having a single senior striker for a club of the size and supposed ambitions of Tottenham was laughable. With the well publicized onslaught of games that will be arriving in a matter of days, it is almost unfathomable. In January of this year, with Kane injured and no other striker to call on, the issue was that none were available, and that a stop-gap solution was not desired. Yet with the season fast approaching, this appears now to be the only viable option.

Despite the club trying and failing for the likes of Coutinho, Fernandes and Dybala last summer, a playmaker to replace Christian Eriksen is now seemingly not even on the radar. Donny van de Beek was a name long linked with the club, but the money to fund the purchase again needed to be raised through sales. The player has now agreed terms and is undergoing a medical at Manchester United, a familiar story for Tottenham fans, after watching Bruno Fernandes slip from their clutches last season. Nicolo Zaniolo and Marcel Sabitzer have also been mentioned, but again the likelihood is that any deal would require considerable outgoing sales. One again has to wonder why the likes of Brighton, Southampton and Crystal Palace are able to buy so freely without selling, but Tottenham seemingly incapable?

With neither Dier or Sanchez particularly convincing last season, and Alderweireld in decline, a new center back is badly needed at the heart of Tottenham’s defense. Inter’s Slovakian defender Milan Skriniar is rumored to be a target, but the club will reportedly only entertain his purchase if Tanguy Ndombele is used as a bargaining chip.

Ultimately, it comes down to ambition; the most basic of prerequisites for a football club to improve their level.

Selling the club’s record signing, after a single injury and pandemic hit season — a year in which the manager for whom he signed was fired — would represent somewhat of a microcosm of Tottenham under ENIC. One step forward, two steps back has long been a doctrine at the club, and losing the player signed to replace Dembele, arguably the squad’s most creative midfielder, and one of the few players capable of breaking lines would be a backwards step for the club. Big clubs build on existing talent, not jettison them at the first chance in order to raise funds for other purchases. Son Heung Min also endured a difficult first season, and the likes of Mohammed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne struggled to such an extent that they were forced to leave England. Ominously both of those players had issues under Mourinho, but the difference was that there were multiple world class players ahead of them in the pecking order back then. No such issues exist at Tottenham. There is plenty more deadwood lurking around Hotspur Way for Tottenham to sell before a player courted by City, Barca and Inter should be sold.

It’s a familiar and frustrating narrative for fans of the North London club, who have endured their longest barren spell in seventy five years, and who want nothing more than to bridge the gap on their rivals — rivals who they were far ahead of just a few short seasons ago, but who were allowed to catch up through willful negligence.

With just over two weeks to go until the start of the new Premier League season, the club finds themselves in an all too frequent state of instability. Key questions for the manager have yet to be answered, and the squad once more enters a new season under a cloud of uncertainty. Lessons from the past haven’t been learned, Pochettino’s warnings still not heeded.

Forget about daring, about bravado, about truly going out and attacking the competition; gaping holes still linger across the field. The club at bare minimum need a new left back, striker and playmaker before the start of the season. Depth — an Achilles heel in many a season — is still a massive issue. At this point, like many seasons prior, fans may be left hoping that fortune shines upon Tottenham, and that somehow the squad can overcome its myriad flaws and deficiencies in order to achieve their ever-shrinking target of objectives.

It’s a far cry from Nicholson’s famous old quote:

It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.

Bill Nicholson

Today, it is Tottenham’s rivals who seem to be carrying on this legacy more than Spurs themselves. While not their primary focus, Arsenal have won nine FA cups since Tottenham’s last triumph, one more than Tottenham have in their entire history. All nine have been won under ENIC’s watch. It is an especially painful statistic given that the FA Cup was once a competition Tottenham were synonymous with winning. Chelsea also have won numerous cups in recent years, almost as an afterthought.

Restriction, austerity and budgets are the current buzzwords for Tottenham’s transfer business these days — as they have been for many years now. Terms like risk, speculation and aspiration have long been anathema to the club’s ownership. And while this might be fine for a real estate portfolio or hedge fund manager; Ferguson, Guardiola, and of course Mourinho himself, will tell you categorically that in football, without daring, and without risk, you get nowhere. 

Tottenham are now inarguably a financial behemoth; but not a footballing one. To alter the paradigm, a radical shift in culture needs to take place. Daniel Levy is undoubtedly a shrewd businessman, but one has to wonder if part of that shrewdness lies in chronically underinvesting in the football team. If the failure to land players at key moments, to setting their teams and managers up to fail, is not merely footballing happenstance, but part of a larger business strategy in the relentless pursuit of profit.

8 thoughts on “To Dare is Too Dear”

  1. Supported THFC since 1975 and coming after the Pochettino managerial reign, reads as a damning indictment of Levy / ENICs’ ownership. To see THFC fans suffer under their ownership as they fill their pockets gutting the ambition of the club is galling. This is in comparison to the cup success of our rivals and Liverpool who we beat 4-1 at Wembley a few years ago. That game marked the separation of both clubs and set the destination both clubs are at today.

    Us fans should boycott the club to force a new direction in player sales and wages as we will not succeed on the pitch until this happens. When Kane leaves due to the clubs lack of ambition maybe it will stir the fans to take direct action because the new shiny stadium is allowing Levy / ENIC to gaslight us into mediocrity. Sadly stadiums do not win trophies players do.

  2. A quite frankly very naive article based on out of date and now irrelevant financial data from the 2018/2019 season. The data being used to formulate this piece is from when we a) reached a Champions League final (now we are no longer in the competition) and b) had a stadium that generated match day revenue. Neither of those things are true any more – our income will likely be 40-50% lower than it was, all with a massive stadium debt to repay.

    After 2018/19 we spent big money on Ndombele, Lo Celso, Sessegnon, Clarke, Bergwijn…by all means argue that these were poor signings but big money was spent after a big season of earnings, now earnings are way down so naturally with the debt as high as it is we’re going to see scaled back transfer activity. ENIC have for sure made mistakes and missed out on good players from being too cautious in the last few years, but trying to point to old financial figures as “proof” of a lack of ambition is just plain ignorant.

    1. They’re the latest financials available. When the new ones come out it will make no difference to the overarching point; the exact same discrepancies will persist.

  3. Great article, my sentiments exactly. I would add that a building friend of mine who has a huge company who handle huge projects including football stands and roofs, knows about the Spurs stadium. He says that big projects have basically 2 types of contract – a fixed price or a lower price subject to any increases due to market fluctuations. Guess what Levy chose. Anyway, the original estimated cost was said to be £450m but in view of increased costs the price went up and up to a current estimate (and rising) of over £1b!! Why has the media not delved into this – they all seem to treat Levy as a financial genius but how incredibly badly has the build been handled and why has he not been taken to task rather been lauded by them. His only interest is to line his pockets and build a huge Brand – football success and trophies are not a priority! Michael Z

  4. A ‘league’ table was shown on a blog about 3 years ago on the status of the 6 on the previous 72 games (roughly the previous 2 seasons). Spurs top with 147pts (£7m net spend). MC 132 (£270). Ars Che MU 131 (£97m, £37, £153). Liv 126 (£5). What a time for us to spend to get top top players to cement our place at top and win trophies! We spent nothing and have obviously fallen away while Liverpool bought Van Djyk and Allison and flew!

    1. Yeah there’s no doubt that that 2015-2018 period was the biggest opportunity we have ever had to win a title. Not spending to strengthen during that time was a terrible decision.

  5. Pingback: The Perennial Stagnation of Tottenham Hotspur - World of Hotspur

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